Two hours before the opening faceoff, almost every Komet was trying to stifle a yawn as they walked into the locker room, almost as if they woken up too late from their pregame naps.
That's exactly how their fans felt a few hours later at the start of the third period. Maybe that's a sleep shot, but this was the most boring game of the season, and that's saying a lot about a team that is now 9-16-3 and continues in last place in the Central Hockey League. The Komets lost 3-1 before 7,337 Memorial Coliseum fans, most of whom had to be nudged by the ushers to quit dozing and move along after the game was over.
How bad was the effort? The IceMen came into the game on a a 1-8-3 skid and are now six points up on Fort Wayne for the last playoff spot in the Turner Conference. The Komets are 0-4-1 at home on Friday nights and a pathetic 1-8-2 including the road games.
``It was embarassing the way we came out tonight, especially with the importance of that game,'' center Mathieu Curadeau said. ``There's really no excuse. Everybody had to bring a better effort tonight. We showed up in the third but obviously it was too late.''
With their lacksadaisical skating, the Komets let the IceMen dictate style and tempo, lulling the Fort Wayne players and crowd into power naps. This wasn't even much of a goaltenders' duel because neither team attempted that many shots on goal.
Along with their 27 shots, the Komets hit a few posts and crossbars, but there were no forwards anywhere near a puck off the pads or within five feet of the crease most of the night. Maybe they have to implement the basketball mantra of ``follow your shot'' to get someone near a rebound.
When the Komets trailed 3-0 after the second period, their fans let them hear it on the way to the locker room. Fort Wayne finally showed some punch early in the third period on a Guy Dupuis power-play goal, but by then it was too late. After being acquired in a trade with Texas on Thursday, new Evansville goaltender Jeff Harvey had to make some big saves early, but nothing overly strenuous.
``We've had good periods here, there, everywhere,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``Good first two periods, bad third the last game against Quad City. We have not put a complete game together yet this year, and we're waiting for it.''
The decisive point on this game was a 5-on-3 power play for Evansville when the Komets' Derek Patrosso got called for hooking at 14:16 of the second period. Only 26 seconds later, IceMen defenseman Mario Larocque blasted a long slap shot over Fort Wayne goaltender Kevin Reiter's shoulder.
``He got caught hooking a guy, and you just can't put yourself down 5-on-3 on a hooking call in the neutral zone,'' Sims said. `If somebody is going to shoot into an empty net, you trip them or knock them down, but it was a bad penalty and we paid the price for it.''
A few quick miscues after that and it was 3-0. The IceMen played the smarter, more controlled game because the Komets let them.
``It was kind of a messy game,'' newly named Komets captain Colin Chaulk said. ``It seemed like at times we had some good pressure and other times we couldn't get it out of our zone and other times you just had a ping pong match (of turnovers).''
Actually, this game was a microcosm of the Fort Wayne season so far. The Komets come out flat, made a few critical turnovers that led to immediate goals and then tried to muster up some energy too late for a comeback. There was no passion, aggressiveness or emotion until it was too late.
Sometime this season the Komets have to find some energy and fire from something other than a Sims' tongue-lashing between periods.
Either that, or maybe they have to move the Friday opening faceoffs to 10 p.m.